Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Paper Dumps Will

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, one of the biggest newspapers in the country, is dropping George Will’s syndicated column and apologizing for his column in which he called sexual assault a “coveted status.”

The change has been under consideration for several months, but a column published June 5, in which Mr. Will suggested that sexual assault victims on college campuses enjoy a privileged status, made the decision easier. The column was offensive and inaccurate; we apologize for publishing it.

Heh.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Stop Digging

Sarah Ellison of Vanity Fair interviewed Arthur Sulzberger on the Jill Abramson firing at the New York Times.  He comes across as someone out of his depth and easily rolled by people he should be managing, and the more he tells of the story about what happened, the worse he comes off.

Ironic that a man in the newspaper business gives a really bad interview.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Not Too Shy

The big news of the Pulitzers was the citation to the Washington Post and the Guardian USA website for breaking the N.S.A. story.

A lot of people on both sides of the story were concentrating on the players: Edward Snowden and the reporters who broke the story.  But it did reveal something a lot of people subconsciously took for granted: that there’s a lot of things that our government does that we don’t know — or don’t want to know about.  Seeing them in print made a lot of people, including members of the Obama administration, rather uncomfortable.  That’s what journalism is supposed to do.

So it’s a tad ironic to hear Sharyl Attkisson, a former correspondent for CBS News, complain about the press for being “very shy” about challenging the Obama administration.  I think the Pulitzer committee would beg to disagree.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunday Reading

More Money, Less Voting — Ari Berman in The Nation on the Supreme Court’s ideology.

In the past four years, under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court has made it far easier to buy an election and far harder to vote in one.

First came the Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which brought us the Super PAC era.

Then came the Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted the centerpiece of the Voting Rights Act.

Now we have McCutcheon v. FEC, where the Court, in yet another controversial 5-4 opinion written by Roberts, struck down the limits on how much an individual can contribute to candidates, parties and political action committees. So instead of an individual donor being allowed to give $117,000 to campaigns, parties and PACs in an election cycle (the aggregate limit in 2012), they can now give up to $3.5 million, Andy Kroll of Mother Jones reports.

The Court’s conservative majority believes that the First Amendment gives wealthy donors and powerful corporations the carte blanche right to buy an election but that the Fifteenth Amendment does not give Americans the right to vote free of racial discrimination.

These are not unrelated issues—the same people, like the Koch brothers, who favor unlimited secret money in US elections are the ones funding the effort to make it harder for people to vote. The net effect is an attempt to concentrate the power of the top 1 percent in the political process and to drown out the voices and votes of everyone else.

Consider these stats from Demos on the impact of Citizens United in the 2012 election:

·  The top thirty-two Super PAC donors, giving an average of $9.9 million each, matched the $313.0 million that President Obama and Mitt Romney raised from all of their small donors combined—that’s at least 3.7 million people giving less than $200 each.

·  Nearly 60 percent of Super PAC funding came from just 159 donors contributing at least $1 million. More than 93 percent of the money Super PACs raised came in contributions of at least $10,000—from just 3,318 donors, or the equivalent of 0.0011 percent of the US population.

·  It would take 322,000 average-earning American families giving an equivalent share of their net worth to match the Adelsons’ $91.8 million in Super PAC contributions.

That trend is only going to get worse in the wake of the McCutcheon decision.

Now consider what’s happened since Shelby County: eight states previously covered under Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act have passed or implemented new voting restrictions (Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina). That has had a ripple effect elsewhere. According to the New York Times, “nine states [under GOP control] have passed measures making it harder to vote since the beginning of 2013.”

A country that expands the rights of the powerful to dominate the political process but does not protect fundament rights for all citizens doesn’t sound much like a functioning democracy to me.

Why Local TV News Sucks — Josh Harkinson at Mother Jones explains.

Everybody knows that most local TV newscasts kind of suck. On television, if it bleeds it leads, and if it’s cheesy and trite it wins the night. Local news is a reliable source for late-night comedians—and The Simpsons has been lampooning it forever. Yet despite all of the genre’s shortcomings, local TV news still manages to reach 9 in 10 American adults, 46 percent of whom watch it “often.” It may come as a surprise to you internet junkies, but broadcast television still serves as Americans’ main source of news and information. Which is why it matters that hundreds of local TV news stations have been swept up in a massive new wave of media consolidation: It means that you, the viewer, are being fed an even more repetitive diet of dreck.

In terms of dollar value, more than 75 percent of the nearly 300 full-power local TV stations purchased last year were acquired by just three media giants. The largest, Sinclair Broadcasting, will reach almost 40 percent of the population if its latest purchases are approved by federal regulators. Sinclair’s CEO has said he wants to keep snapping up stations until the company’s market saturation hits 90 percent. (And that’s not a typo.)

Now here’s where things really get sketchy: Media conglomerates such as Sinclair have bought up multiple news stations in the same regions—in nearly half of America’s 210 television markets, one company owns or manages at least two local stations, and a lot of these stations now run very similar or even completely identical newscasts, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. One in four local stations relies entirely on shared content.

On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission finally took steps to curb the practice. The commission’s rules have long prohibited companies from owning more than one of the four top-rated stations in a given market. But there was no rule preventing a single company from managing more than one station per market. Companies exploited this loophole by controlling stations through “joint sales agreements”—essentially shell companies formed just to hold the broadcast license. “Removal of the loophole helps ensure competition, localism, and diversity in local broadcast markets by preventing a practice that previously resulted in consolidation in excess of what is permitted under the Commission’s rules,” the FCC said in a press release.

Ad Some Love — Andrew Solomon at The New Yorker on how advertising is fighting the culture war.

For a long time, prejudice made a certain business sense. You could argue that it was immoral or wrong; others insisted that it was moral and godly. But there was little dispute about the business piece of it. Bill Clinton liked gay people, but he signed the Defense of Marriage Act nonetheless. Karl Rove knew it was smart to put all those anti-gay-marriage initiatives on the ballot. Coors beer could advertise in gay magazines while funding anti-gay interests and keeping any hint of the “non-traditional” out of the ads it ran for general audiences. The regressive side in the so-called culture wars was presumed to include a majority of American consumers; businesses, worried about their image, tended to defer to them.

Now, Honey Maid, that old-fashioned brand of graham crackers, has launched an ad that shows, in the most radical and moving way of any national campaign so far, how much that has changed. It shows a two-dad family, a rocker family, a single dad, an interracial family, a military family. The two-dad household is featured at some length; you cannot be distracted away from it. Most striking is the tagline of the ad: “No matter how things change, what makes us wholesome never will. Honey Maid. Everyday wholesome snacks for every wholesome family. This is wholesome.” The ad is deeply heartwarming—not simply because it shows diversity (which other companies have done) but because it labels these families with the word “wholesome,” which is exactly the kind of word that tends to get claimed by the evangelical right. People have long suggested that the new structures of the American family are “unwholesome” as a way of rationalizing intolerance. The idea of what is “against nature” has been central to messages of prejudice about both interracial relationships and homosexuality.

Honey Maid knew its ad would provoke controversy, and it did. So the company has made a follow-up spot that has been released on social media. “On March 10th, 2014, Honey Maid launched ‘This is wholesome,’ a commercial that celebrates all families,” the online short proclaims. “Some people didn’t agree with our message.” Viewers see close-ups of tweets and e-mails with remarks such as “Horrible, NOT ‘WHOLESOME,’” “DO NOT APPROVE!,” and “Disgusting!!” The title card says, “So we asked two artists to take the negative comments and turn them into something else.” We then see thirty-year-olds Linsey Burritt and Crystal Grover, who collaborate under the name INDO, taking a printout of each hateful comment and rolling it into a tube, then grouping the tubes at one end of a vast, industrial-looking space to create an assemblage that spells out “Love.” The artists appear to walk away, their work done. Then the online ad proclaims, “But the best part was all the positive messages we received. Over ten times as many.” Then we see e-mails with epithets such as “family is family” and “love the Honey Maid ad” and “this story of a beautiful family” and “most beautiful thing.” The entire room fills up with tubes made from these messages. Finally, we are told, “Proving that only one thing really matters when it comes to family … ,” and then we see the word “love” embraced by a roomful of paper tubes. The pacing of the spot is impeccable: the first half turns hatred into love, and the second half provides evidence of love itself. In its first day online, it garnered more than 1.5 million views.

[...]

Advertising both follows and leads to change. Marketers’ objective is to sell things, and they will seldom be brave enough to jeopardize their own interests, but their own interests appear to be changing. At some quiet moment when “Modern Family” was reaping good ratings, the mentality of corporate America began to change. Cheerios ran an ad last summer that showed an interracial family and received an astonishing amount of vitriol—nearly fifty years after Loving v. Virginia. Some of the responses to its posting on General Mills”s YouTube channel were so odious that General Mills actually disabled the comments. When General Mills did a second ad in the series featuring the same family, it hired screeners to sort through the YouTube comments and remove the most bilious. It debuted during the Super Bowl, in February.

[...]

But how crushing that in the same week that Honey Maid has made history, we have the passage, in Mississippi, of S.B. 2681, signed into law Thursday, which takes the same tack as the vetoed Arizona bill but in very careful terms, allowing those with religious rationales to act out their bigotry, and enjoining government from interfering when they do so. I suppose that Mississippi, which doesn’t have an N.F.L. team, didn’t worry about not getting the Super Bowl. The anti-L.G.B.T. Family Research Council has taken credit for the passage of the bill, writing that its efforts

helped to bring along the business community—which, in Arizona, was so deceived by the media and outside leftist groups.… Mississippi companies didn’t have that problem, because the state tuned out the propaganda.

Where Mississippi has gone, other states will likely follow. With no federal jobs or housing protections, with no ENDA, gay people are vulnerable to such oppression. Being good for business gets us only so far. What, then, of Honey Maid? What, then, of making the word love out of all that hatred? It will take more than a pair of talented installation artists to bring about such a transformation on a national scale.

Doonesbury — What an idea.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Faking Out the Fakers

If Tucker Carlson, the poor man’s George F. Will, can run a fake website full of fake and exaggerated right-wing drivel, it stands to reason that it would get punked on by a fake news story from a satirical magazine article from 1990.

Dave Weigel at Slate:

If 2013 was the year of “the Internet falling for bogus stories,” 2014 is starting off with green shoots of hope. Some background:

Two and a half long months ago, reporter Charles C. Johnson teamed up with Joel Gilbert—a birther director who previously claimed that Barack Obama was sired by a communist poet—and talked to a few Newark residents who hated Cory Booker. The resulting Daily Caller story, titled “Neighbors: Cory Booker Never Lived in Newark,” was buzzy enough to generate questions for the New Jersey U.S. Senate candidate in his final press avails before he won the special election. Steve Lonegan, Booker’s opponent, even held a press conference to draw attention to the claims. It didn’t take much for BuzzFeed‘s Ruby Cramer to prove that the article was wrong, or to later prove that Johnson had previously (and without declaring it in his journalism) done research for an anti-Booker PAC.

Would that mean “fewer Charles Johnson articles in the Daily Caller“? No, of course not. Three days into the new year, Johnson appeared again in the Daily Caller with an apparent scoop about David D. Kirkpatrick, the New York Times Cairo bureau chief who’d just filed a lengthy corrective history of the 9/11/12 Benghazi attacks. Never mind Kirkpatrick’s reporting; Johnson proved that Kirkpatrick had “show[ed] his naked body to all” while a student at Princeton 25 years ago.

The source of the scoop was a parody edition of the Princeton University newspaper that also ran articles on the then-dead Elvis crooning for students cramming for finals and a professor who claimed to be able to brainwash his students at will.

Mr. Johnson has admitted to not understanding sarcasm and has apologized to Mr. Kirkpatrick.  But the best part is his defense of his journalistic integrity:

As an aside some people are arguing that I was trying to discredit Kirkpatrick’s controversial reporting on the Benghazi attack which is false. I simply wrote up the story because his name was in the news. I have no idea if what he reported was accurate.

QED.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Monday, September 16, 2013

Short Takes

Larry Summers backs out of the Fed chair race.

It’s still raining in Colorado, slowing rescue efforts.

U.N. inspectors submit report on Syria’s chemical weapons.

G.O.P. expresses guarded support for President Obama’s leadership on Syria.

The New Yorker gets a nip and tuck.

Tropical Update:  Hurricane Ingrid is a Cat 2, heading for the Gulf coast of Mexico.

The Tigers beat K.C. 3-2.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Journalism Is Not Terrorism

Rachel Maddow made this point last night:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

And this is David Atkins over at Hullabaloo:

If there’s one overarching theme to the post-Patriot Act civil libertarian argument, it’s that in the pants-wetting national reaction to the 9/11 attacks, the insane amount of authority the government has been given to secretly surveil and interfere with the lives of citizens is being used for far less defensible or frankly indefensible purposes. The potential for abuse of unlimited surveillance power is radically high, and the danger of a totalitarian society is quite strong when just about any abuse of power the government conducts is justified by “terrorism.”

I’ve had my issues with Greenwald. But I don’t care if you believe that Greenwald and Snowden are the embodiments of the Anti-Christ. I don’t care what documents Greenwald’s spouse was carrying, how classified they were, or whether you believe that Greenwald is a journalist. I don’t care.

When a government detains someone who is very clearly not a terrorist for nine hours without access to an attorney under a terrorism statute, that government has proven every point Greenwald wanted to make. The argument is over right there.

And every “progressive” with a beef against Greenwald who attempts to defend the UK’s actions does nothing more than prove Greenwald’s point. Governments that detain civil libertarian bloggers and journalists as terrorists deserve every heaping of scorn they get, as do those who defend them.

It’s not about the players, it’s about the rights and wrongs.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Jeff Bezos Goes Postal

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos wraps up a deal to buy the Washington Post.

Bezos, whose entrepreneurship has made him one of the world’s richest men, will pay $250 million in cash for The Post and affiliated publications to The Washington Post Co., which owns the newspaper and other businesses.

Seattle-based Amazon will have no role in the purchase; Bezos himself will buy the news organization and become its sole owner when the sale is completed, probably within 60 days. The Post Co. will get a new, still-undecided name and continue as a publicly traded company without The Post.

The deal represents a sudden and stunning turn of events for The Post, Washington’s leading newspaper for decades and a powerful force in shaping the nation’s politics and policy. Few people were aware that a sale was in the works for the paper, an institution that has covered local communities and presidents and gained worldwide attention for its stories about Watergate scandals and, in June, disclosures about National Security Agency surveillance programs.

Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald Graham and his niece, Post publisher Katharine Weymouth, broke the news of the sale to a packed meeting of employees at the company’s headquarters in downtown Washington on Monday. The mood was hushed; several veteran employees cried as Graham and Weymouth took turns reading statements and answering questions. “Everyone who was in that room knows how much Don and Katharine love the paper and how hard this must have been for them,” said David Ignatius, a veteran Post columnist who was visibly moved after the meeting.

But for much of the past decade, the paper has been unable to escape the financial turmoil that has engulfed newspapers and other “legacy” media organizations. The rise of the Internet and the epochal change from print to digital technology have created a massive wave of competition for traditional news companies, scattering readers and advertisers across a radically altered news and information landscape and triggering mergers, bankruptcies and consolidation among the owners of print and broadcasting properties.

“Every member of my family started out with the same emotion — shock — in even thinking about” selling The Post, Graham said in an interview Monday. “But when the idea of a transaction with Jeff Bezos came up, it altered my feelings.”

Mr. Bezos grew up in Miami.  So why didn’t he buy the Miami Herald?  Because he didn’t get to be that rich by being stupid, that’s why.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Vindication

Sometimes the wheels of justice grind slowly and they can be aggravating, but every once in a while, things work out for the best.

This week saw full vindication for attorneys Michael Tein and Guy Lewis as the Florida Bar closed out the complaints with a no probable cause finding and began an investigation into the attorneys for the Miccosukee tribe. The comparison in criminal court is like getting a not guilty and then having the cops arrested for lying. It was a truly remarkable feat of lawyering and one worthy of praise.

So there you have it. A few lessons learned, two lawyers have their reputations restored, and one damn fine job of lawyering. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Full disclosure: Mr. Lewis is my attorney and a good friend.  That doesn’t mean I can’t say that I think he and his partner got screwed royally by some members of the legal community and the press (*cough The Miami Herald cough*).

I never doubted for a minute that he and Michael would be exonerated, but it’s nice to see at least some people acknowledge their vindication.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Short Takes

Secretary of State Kerry gets Israel and Palestine to agree to start talking about peace talks.

Michigan court puts wrinkle in Detroit bankruptcy.

Court orders New York Times reporter to testify about source of classified information.

Asiana flight victim killed by rescue vehicle, not by crash.

Rough waters at a boat ride at Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio.

The Tigers begin the second half of the season by losing to K.C. 1-0.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Scandal About The “Scandal”

Alex Seitz-Wald at Salon looks at the shameful way the so-called liberal media fell all over themselves — and fell down — in covering the I.R.S. “scandal.”

While the initial reports about the IRS targeting looked pretty bad, suggesting that agents singled out tax-exempt applications for Tea Party and conservative groups for extra scrutiny, the media badly bungled the controversy when supposedly sober journalists like Bob Woodward and Chuck Todd jumped to conclusions and assumed the worst from day one. Instead of doing more reporting to discover the true nature and context of the IRS targeting, or at least waiting for their colleagues to do some, the supposedly liberal mainstream press let their eagerness to show they could be just as tough on a Democratic White House as a Republican one get ahead of the facts. We expect politicians to stretch reality to fit a narrative, but the press should be better.

And they would have gotten away with it, too, had their narrative had the benefit of being true. But now, almost two months later, we know that in fact the IRS targeted lots of different kinds of groups, not just conservative ones; that the only organizations whose tax-exempt statuses were actually denied were progressive ones; that many of the targeted conservative groups legitimately crossed the line; that the IG’s report was limited to only Tea Party groups at congressional Republicans’ request; and that the White House was in no way involved in the targeting and didn’t even know about it until shortly before the public did.

In short, the entire scandal narrative was a fiction. But it had real consequences, effectively derailing Obama’s agenda not long after a resounding reelection, costing several people their careers, and distracting and misinforming the public. It’s not that nothing went wrong at the IRS, but that the transgression merited nowhere near the media response it earned. But instead of acknowledging its error or correcting the record, the mainstream political press has simply moved on to the next game.

It’s pretty simple to see why this happened; why the press didn’t bother to actually dig out the story behind the story: it’s not about journalism, it’s about fame and accolades, face time and ego.  Everyone wants to be the next big name in their field, no matter whether it’s sports, Hollywood, or crop insurance.  Human nature is such that we crave attention.  Even famous recluses like J.D. Salinger were famous for doing their best for trying to avoid the limelight; that’s how they get their fix.

So when this carefully manipulated story about the I.R.S. looking into groups with politically aware names started popping up, of course they were going to bite on it even though it was clear from the beginning that it applied to groups of all stripes, including left-leaning organizations.  (They probably flagged Lesbians for the Metric System… after all, it was invented by the French.)  But they ran with it, jumped to all sorts of conclusions, assumed the worst, and let the Republicans gleefully roll around in it, knowing full well that the Republicans, given the chance, would have done the exact same thing if they’d had the chance.  (By the way, did anyone remember that the people at the head of the I.R.S. at the time this went down were appointed by the Bush administration?)

Journalism has always had a siren call to celebrity.  After all, you’re going to get your name in the paper, people are going to read your words, and if you’re very, very lucky, they might even make a movie about your work.  (“Robert Redford is going to play me?  Seriously?”)  Of course, that comes along only if the people and the story you’re writing cooperate with your plans and turn out to really be as evil and as criminal as you hope they will be so that you’re along for the ride when they hit the front pages and the history books.

But if you’ve invested a lot of time and make-up on Morning Joe to turn the scandal into your ticket to your own show on cable and all you’ve really got is a nothingburger, you’re not going to spend a lot of time wondering what you did wrong.  Self-examination is for columnists at The Atlantic.  You’ve gotta find the next story, and Leonardo DiCaprio would be perfect to play you in the film version.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Karl Marks

It’s a right-wing tactic to attack the messenger, but in the case of Jonathan Karl, he does have a resume that suggests he might be a tad inclined to see things from a right-wing point of view.

Karl came to mainstream journalism via the Collegiate Network, an organization primarily devoted to promoting and supporting right-leaning newspapers on college campuses (Extra!, 9-10/91)—such as the Rutgers paper launched by the infamous James O’Keefe (Political Correction, 1/27/10). The network, founded in 1979, is one of several projects of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which seeks to strengthen conservative ideology on college campuses. William F. Buckley was the ISI’s first president, and the current board chair is American Spectator publisher Alfred Regnery. Several leading right-wing pundits came out of Collegiate-affiliated papers, including Ann Coulter, Dinesh D’Souza, Michelle Malkin, Rich Lowry and Laura Ingraham (Washington Times, 11/28/04).

The Collegiate Network also provides paid internships and fellowships to place its members at corporate media outlets or influential Beltway publications; 2010-11 placements include the Hill, Roll Call, Dallas Morning News and USA Today. The program’s highest-profile alum is Karl, who was a Collegiate fellow at the neoliberal New Republic magazine.

After a stint at the New York Post, Karl soon found his way to CNN, but he was still connected to ideological pursuits; he was a board member at the right-leaning youth-oriented Third Millennium group and at the Madison Center for Educational Affairs—which, like the Collegiate Network, seeks to strengthen young conservative journalism. After moving to ABC in 2003, Karl contributed several pieces to the neo-con Weekly Standard, such as his April 4, 2005 article praising Bush Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as out to “make her mark with the vigorous pursuit of the president’s freedom and democracy agenda.”

Karl’s high profile at ABC demonstrates that conservative messages can find a comfortable home inside the so-called “liberal” media.

Does that mean that he can’t be a fair and objective reporter when it comes to doing his job?  Not at all.  A lot of journalists work for news organizations that have a political point of view but still are able to do their job without seeming to inject their point of view into their work.  (Of course, to hear the right-wingers tell it, all journalists are left-wing shills for Saul Alinsky, Noam Chomsky, and George Soros, but send a kid to college on a scholarship from the National Review and he’s the soul of objectivity.)

It’s not what he thinks but how he acts that matters, and so far Mr. Karl’s response (see below) tend to lend credence to the notion that in this case, his background and job history does matter.

In his case, you wonder why he’s not working as the head of the Washington bureau at Fox News.

HT to digby.

When The Messenger Is The Story

ABC’s Jonathan Karl is in the uncomfortable position of being the story instead of reporting it.

He’s the one who got the breathless scoop about the White House e-mails that showed the administration was trying to scrub the facts about Benghazi! to make it look like they were trying to keep the heat off the State Department.  But when the White House released the e-mails in their entirety that proved no such thing and it turned out that Mr. Karl had been given second-hand summaries edited and vetted by Republican Congressional staffers, he became the story.  A number of news outlets, including CBS News, flatly contradicted the ABC story, as did the facts themselves, leaving Mr. Karl as the one who had some explaining to do about his work and the story he published.

That’s not a good thing for a reporter, whether or not he or she is right.  Just ask Dan Rather or Judith Miller.  Or, for that matter, Woodward and Bernstein.

Mr. Karl released a statement yesterday afternoon that basically said that while there were some errors made, the story “entirely stands.”  Josh Marshall takes a look at his statement and calls bullshit: How can you have a factual error in a story, yet say that it’s still “entirely” true?

I don’t know if Mr. Karl will keep his job at ABC News, but it’s likely that he will, given that this is a story about a Democratic president and that party does not have the lung power and the shrillness of the GOP to hound someone out of a job.  If this was about a Republican president, you’d be hearing the Mighty Wurlitzer of Fox News and the right wing demanding his head on a spike all the way to Venus.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Major News

Josh Marshall at TPM is right: this is pretty epic.  A major network’s news reporter is calling bullshit on the Republicans and the White House e-mail distortions.

SCOTT PELLEY: Also at his news conference today the president called for tighter security for U.S. diplomatic facilities to prevent an attack like the one in Benghazi, Libya, last year that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Of course, Benghazi has become a political controversy. Republicans claim that the Administration watered down the facts in talking points that were given to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for television appearances while Mr. Obama was running for reelection. Republicans on Capitol Hill claim that they had found proof of this in White House e-mails that they leaked to reporters last week. Well, it turns out some of the quotes in those e-mails were wrong. Major Garrett is at the White House for us tonight. Major?

MAJOR GARRETT: Scott, Republicans have claimed that the State Department under Hillary Clinton was trying to protect itself from criticism. The White House released the real e-mails late yesterday and here’s what we found when we compared them to the quotes that had been provided by Republicans. One e-mail was written by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. On Friday, Republicans leaked what they said was a quote from Rhodes. “We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation.” But it turns out, in the actual e-mail Rhodes did not mention the State Department. It read “We need to resolve this in a way that respects all the relevant equities, particularly the investigation.” Republicans also provided what they said was a quote from an e-mail written by State Department Spokesman Victoria Nuland. The Republican version notes Nuland discussing: “The penultimate point is a paragraph talking about all the previous warnings provided by the Agency (CIA) about al-Qaeda’s presence and activities of al-Qaeda.” The actual e-mail from Nuland says: the “…penultimate point could be abused by Members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings…” The C.I.A. agreed with the concerns raised by the State Department and revised the talking points to make them less specific than the C.I.A.’s original version, eliminating references to al-Qaeda and affiliates and earlier security warnings. There is no evidence, Scott, the White House orchestrated these changes.

And that’s the way it is, Major.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Number You Have Reached: Justice Dept. and the AP

Via the New York Times:

Federal investigators secretly seized two months of phone records for reporters and editors of The Associated Press in what the news organization said Monday was a “serious interference with A.P.’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news.”

The A.P. said that the Justice Department informed it on Friday that law enforcement officials had obtained the records for more than 20 telephone lines of its offices and journalists, including their home phones and cellphones. It said the records were seized without notice sometime this year.

The organization was not told the reason for the seizure. But the timing and the specific journalistic targets strongly suggested they are related to a continuing government investigation into the leaking of information a year ago about the Central Intelligence Agency’s disruption of a Yemen-based terrorist plot to bomb an airliner.

The disclosures began with an Associated Press article on May 7, 2012, breaking the news of the foiled plot; the organization had held off publishing it for several days at the White House’s request because the intelligence operations were still unfolding.

In an angry letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Monday, Gary Pruitt, the president and chief executive of The A.P., called the seizure, a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into its news gathering activities.

There had better be a pretty damn good reason for this, and they better have had both warrants and the probable cause to back it up.

Assuming they have that — something we can’t take for granted since the Obama administration seems to be following the Bush playbook of using the GWOT as their cover — then the AP is being a little bit over the top with their response.  The Justice Department went after phone records, not the conversations themselves, which law enforcement does quite often… if every case on Law & Order is to be believed.

From a political point of view, it’ll be fun to see how the wingers react.  They are always saying the librul media protects the rights of terrorists, and here’s the secret gay Muslim Kenyan socialist going after the press for their records.  If Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzales had done this, they would have been saving America.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Enough Already

The women held captive in Cleveland have been rescued.  They have been reunited with their families.  The man accused of the crime is in jail, been charged, and is awaiting trial.

So let the justice system and the families do their jobs and leave them alone.  The story, as far as the minute-by-minute updates with BREAKING NEWS banners and breathless reporters in the middle of the street in east Cleveland, is over.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Short Takes

Updates on the bombing from the Boston Globe.

Supreme Court hears arguments on gene patents.

Protests erupt in Venezuela after government rejects recount.

New York gun control law kicks in.

Last remaining abortion provider in Mississippi gets reprieve.

The Pulitzer Prizes were announced, including one for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Stylish

The Associated Press will drop the use of the term “illegal immigrant” from their reporting style book.

Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.

Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms illegal alien, an illegal, illegals or undocumented. Do not describe people as violating immigration laws without attribution. Specify wherever possible how someone entered the country illegally and from where. Crossed the border? Overstayed a visa? What nationality?

Good for them.  Of course the nutsery will accuse them of being “politically correct,” which is always good for a laugh.